The homestead gate opens. A man holding a small boy's hand walks through. The man has the little boy's colorful backpack in his other hand. He greets Anne with a big handshake. She laughs and her boys come running in to greet their cousin. We walk over to Eve's house. The man is Eve's brother-in-law, Mom's son. He, Simon, lives in the city and has come for a visit. Simon reaches into the colorful backpack and hands small bags of peanuts to Paul and Daniel, a lollipop to Eve, and a hard candy to me. By the looks of it, this piece of candy has been in that boy's backpack for a very long time. As everyone else unwraps theirs sweets to chomp down, I follow suit.
After Eve and Simon have had a short conversation in Kikuyu, he asks me in English, "You don't speak Swahili?" There is a small exchange about my inability to speak Swahili, though feeling inadequate I do mention that I speak other languages. Though, eventually I say, "Kidogo" (a little). Hoping that will suffice.
"100 bob?" He asks matter-of-factly.
I am confused and think that maybe I didn't understand him correctly. He repeats himself.
"No," I respond just as matter-of-factly.
"You don't have?" he asks.
"No. What I have is for Anne and your mother." Despite my initial apprehension of actually paying my participants, I learned very soon after my arrival that guests are expected to arrive with gifts. Traveling with pounds of flour and sugar are heavy. So, following advice of Kenyans, I decided to not only bring sweets on arrival but also give money to my participants (and new Kenyan families) upon my departure as a gesture of appreciation.
"How much?" he questions.
"That is between me and them," I tell him.
"10 bob?" He requests.
I shake my head at him.
"You don't have?" He asks in utter disbelief. "I want to smoke"
I look at him blankly.
"I want to smoke." He repeats.
"I want to smoke. 10 bob."
I say good-bye and pass Mom as she enters Eve's land.
I need to skip ahead to Saturday evening and go back to the neighborhood walk later. Jane, the kids' mother, called to say that she would be late. And because she had promised me a traditional Kikuyu dish, the girls - Damaris, their daughter, and Esther, the house help - would have to make it instead. She sent them the directions via SMS.
The three of us chatted while we prepared lunch together, which was when I found out that Esther was only one year older than Damaris, and also that Esther had only been working for them for the last nine months. Since Damaris had been away at boarding school, the girls must have only just met a month or so ago, when Damaris had returned. During lunch it was obvious that they were friendly - despite being from different ethnic tribes and, of course, the class difference. While we - and I really mean the two of them - made dinner it was abundantly clear that the two were actually quite close. There were giggles and shared knowing looks. 'Thick as thieves' one might say from watching them cook.
Damaris dictated the steps to Esther from the text message. Previously Esther had pealed and cut plantains, but it turned out that they weren't needed. Instead they were put in water and then placed in the fridge. The recipe only called for yams, squash, and kidney beans. The yams and squash were boiled together.
Today was the third day without running water, and since this morning we were out of drinking water. Jane had promised to pick some up on her way home. But because Damaris, Kirioki, and I had had our adventure in the neighborhood today, we were all parched. Kirioki decided to suck on ice cubes, but when he pulled the tray from the freezer it was covered in frost. He got out a knife and started to pick away at it. At the same time Esther started cutting up cabbage in her hand. There was that rhythm again: schka schka schka, schka schka schka... but this time it was in stereo.
I looked up from watching Esther's chopping and saw Damaris and Kirioki on either side of the fridge. Both sitting on the floor with their knees pulled in. Damaris and Esther continue to talk and laugh in Swahili. Kirioki munches on his ice, as all three of us wait for the woman of the house to return to quench our thirst.
Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya during the first part of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).
I am nearing completion on one of the projects from my time in Kenya. It's working title is Facing Inside Surfaces, consists of a video installation and a photo/sound installation (photo above is part of that), and is an investigation ofspace and privacyin the central province of Kenyan via the omnipresent gate. I'm starting to set up studio visits via Skype (Skype name: nicolerademacher.com). Please let me know if you are interested. I would love to show you what I have been up to. Additionally, I want to see what other artists have been getting into. In the next couple weeks I will be physically visiting studios of local L.A. artists as well as doing studio visits via Skype. I'll be sure to keep you abreast on all the info! Thanks for your continued support. Research and documentation for this project made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons.
Have you visited my site recently? I know, I have been silent for a bit - but I've been busy!
As you should know by now, my website is in constant reconstruction. This time I have reformatted the layout and made it more "user-friendly" for you. Have a look! You'll get a sneak-peek to some of the work from the Kenya residency.
More news to come - with the recent move to L.A., things are getting exciting!! (I hear that people in L.A. over-use the "!", is this founded? If so, I may have found my crowd - ha!)
Thanks for your support ... warm wishes to you all.
Above is a short teaser for the new music video of Inti-Illimani. They've got a hot new song, La Siembra, that they wrote together with Chilean musician Nano Stern that talks about society and fighting to keep the truth alive.
This Saturday they are filming the music video, directed by Matías Muñoz R., to be premiered next month!!
I've been asked to do the Making-Of, which I am rather excited about, especially because it is small way for me to thank them for being so generous with their talents earlier this year.
In the small mud-floored kitchen, around the kitchen fire bordered by 3 large stones (to put the pots on), the middle son is home with his 8 year-old for a visit. The three adults discuss life, the city, work - or lack-thereof. The 2 grandsons that live on the homestead are seated there as well, with their cousin, quietly listening to the adult conversation. One of the boys sings, but it is barely heard; the others dig their feet into the ground and fidget. But I can only imagine this based on the conversation in a language that I don't understand that comes billowing out of the barely open door and the small square window. The conversation is accompanied by the suffocating smoke from the kitchen fire, fighting for a place to escape from the confines of the small space.
I steal understandings of bits of words and, of course, proper names like the capital city where the son now lives, with his wife and son in the second largest urban slum on the continent, barely making ends-meet. I stand just a few meters from the wood building, looking up through the rainclouds of the Long Rains season through the pitch-black to a few constellations, barely visible. I look back at the square-shaped room with an orange burning light shining through not only the cracked door and window, but also the open slats that let the rain in this morning while we watched the water heating for our baths.
The conversation is familiar, one that I have had with my own parents in their kitchen during one of my countless visits home. There is a relay back and forth of question-answer, then intermittently the son explains further or the mother continues on a monologue asking and comparing, hoping to glean a bit more about her son's life that is not so unfamiliar to her, she is from a city near by, not the capital, but she is no stranger to the hustle and bustle, but perhaps she has forgotten all of that. Perhaps the forty-some years that she has spent in the high rolling hills tending to their farm and dairy cows, perhaps this less-busy life has allowed her to forget the hand-to-mouth that she, presumably, once lived.
The oldest of the grandsons pops out and I quickly change my gaze back to the sky again, attempting to make myself invisible. Though the night is so dark with no moonlight and no artificial light for miles, at least to the closest town, being invisible isn't so difficult. Then I remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper today when we made the hike to town for supplies that cannot be reaped from their land, power had been out in the town for the last 2 days - no mobile charging, no television, only the police station, with their noisy generator, could be seen with their lights on at night. The grandson dumps some water and with a clang grabs something from under the chicken coop and glides back into the warm kitchen shutting the door just a few centimeters more behind him.